Dec 2023

Destination sex

How do people have sex on holiday? Courtney Thompson explores our URGES, DESIRES and FREEDOM to experiment when far, far AWAY

If you were listening in, it would have sounded like any other conversation between women who date men. Thirty-year-old Sama and her friend were discussing their breakups, lamenting the emotional incompetence of many heterosexual cis men and expressing their gratitude for their female support systems when the conversation veered into unexpected territory. “The idea of being with a woman came up so naturally in that space, and I think I was the one to be like, ‘Yeah, lesbians have it so right,’” she recalls.

Both were expats who had just relocated to Argentina, and there was something about being in a foreign country that unlocked a new possibility. “Then she was like, ‘Oh, well, have you ever been with a girl?’” Sama says. “And I was honest, I said, ‘No, I haven’t, but I would love to. The opportunity’s just never really presented itself.’ I think because we were close and had that consent base, we were like, ‘Should we just try this and see what it’s all about?’”

So they did. “I think both of us walked away thinking, ‘Holy fuck, we love this,’” Sama says with a laugh. “And then had no idea what to do with that experience afterwards because neither one of us had identified as preferring women. But I know for sure that that changed my own idea of myself and my identity. It definitely was like a catalyst to this whole other world.”

Travel offers new horizons, both literally and figuratively – this we know. But also sexually. Married couples take sojourns to have their first threesome; individuals visit Berlin for bondage. Though it’s not all wild sexcapades and dirty weekends – travel can be an opportunity to become more in tune with one’s body and desires, to experiment and explore. Like Sama, who had never considered herself queer before hooking up with her friend. Today, single women are attending retreats in Mexico to experience full-body orgasms, couples are travelling to intimacy workshops, and others are mixing it up in the hotel bedroom – having more sex, or better sex – when they’re far away from home.

According to research conducted by Radical Storage, which surveyed 1296 adults about their sexual interests at home and when away, 64.3 per cent of people under the age of 45 use holidays as a way to explore different desires and kinks. They come prepared, too, with 84 per cent of holidaymakers packing some form of sex toy or item in their luggage. Of those desires being explored, nearly one in five like to experiment with role-play, while 15.9 per cent said they were keen to have sex “somewhere they shouldn’t”.

When we’re free from stress, it makes sense we’re more up for it.

For Mark and Oscar, holidays are sometimes an opportunity to open their long-term relationship. “Where we live can feel like a bit of a bubble where everyone knows everyone,” Oscar says. “So even though we’d consider ourselves pretty progressive and good communicators, it just means that if you do go open, everyone’s kinda in your business and it’s harder to find people who the other person doesn’t know. But when you’re in a different country, with that added anonymity, things are a little more straightforward because the chances of you seeing those people again are pretty slim.”

While organic holiday sex is probably as old as time, organised sex holidays are going mainstream and high-end, a movement fuelled by the thriving sexual wellness industry. In 2022, the W Brisbane joined with sex toy retailer Lovehoney to launch a sexologist concierge, and Six Senses Ibiza hosts retreats about sexual wellbeing and empowerment. Sex coach Bibi Brzozka has partnered with the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort in Mexico for an intimacy, conscious sexuality and emotional awareness program. She also runs her own retreats, La Luna LOVE, with breathwork and vulnerability expert Miriam Adler, focusing on conscious relating and holistic sexuality.

“Many people are seeking experiences that go beyond unlimited margaritas and photo opportunities,” Brzozka says, noting that she’s seen an increase in demand for the retreats post-pandemic, coinciding with a widespread change in perspective relating to sex. “There has been a noticeable shift in the way we approach intimacy and conscious sexuality. In the past, many held the misconception that it was solely about orgies or swingers. However, with the increased presence of conscious sexuality in social media, podcasts and festivals, the idea of safely exploring emotional connections, sensuality, erotic rituals and expanding one’s orgasmic capacity has gained recognition and is now actively sought after.”

Georgia Grace, sex coach, educator and co-founder of sexual wellness start-up Normal, agrees that people are seeking more from vacations. “Some people go on holidays with the specific intention of having more sexual experiences,” she says. “You know, there are lots of gay cruises and, of course, people travel the world to go to different Pride Weeks. We saw here in Sydney how amazing it was that so many people travelled and went on holiday to have sex, to be sexual, to explore their sexuality, to feel seen, and to experience their identity more thoroughly.”

In 2023, Normal partnered with the off-grid tiny cabin company Unyoked to launch a new intimacy course, Come Together, which encouraged couples to explore their sexuality out in nature while disconnected from the mundanity of everyday life. “Being in a different space other than your own can allow for people to experience their sexuality in new ways than perhaps they can when they’re at home,” Grace says.

“Many people are seeking experiences that go beyond unlimited margaritas and photo opportunities”

Grace also cites the research of Dr Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are. According to Nagoski, the way we view sexual desire needs to change. Rather than a simplistic on-off switch, Nagoski believes sexual desire is multifaceted and influenced by a range of external and internal factors that are constantly shifting – things like stress, personal experiences, relationship dynamics, sexual arousal and emotional connection. When we’re on holiday, free from stress, moving our body and in an exciting new environment, it makes sense that we’re more down to fuck.

For Brzozka’s clientele, the retreats often serve as a “gateway to unlock their untapped erotic potential”, she says. “I work a lot with full-body energy orgasms and the healing, nourishing quality of sex, which is what many women and couples desire. For couples, it is the curiosity of experiencing deeper connection and more fulfilling sex, which means doing things differently and learning how to do so. What better way than being guided through such a journey in a beautiful, elegant, safe place in nature?”

There’s also the allure of being able to be someone else when you’re travelling – a sense of freedom that gives way to sexual exploration. An emerging travel trend for 2024 is getting creative with your identity, with a Booking.com survey of more than 27,000 people across 33 different countries finding that more than a third of travellers “feel more alive by creating their very own epic alter egos on vacation”.

For Sama, opting out of certain aspects of herself in Argentina offered a new kind of liberation. “It really wasn’t until I moved to a different country that I felt so free from the constraints of my society and immediate community that it sort of clicked: ‘Holy shit, I can do whatever I want over here and no-one’s gonna know, no-one’s gonna say anything – I can pretty much reinvent myself as many times as I want during this trip,’” she recalls. “I felt like I was intoxicated. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I could be whoever I want.’ Now, when I’m abroad, I basically just choose, like, ‘OK, who do I wanna be this week?’ I feel like when you’re travelling, there are parts of yourself that you can choose to magnify or minimise as much as you’d like. Because it’s nobody’s business, right?”

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